I recently took a trip to Provo, Utah. (Yay! Utah!) Provo is an easy 45-minute drive south of Salt Lake City. (Yay! Salt Lake City!) And guess what — one day of my trip had nothing scheduled. No meetings. No conference calls. Just freedom.
I had a rental car with unlimited miles and a schedule with nothing on it. It’s easy to imagine what any red-blooded genealogist would do in this situation: Jump in the car and head north to world renowned Family History Library.
But that isn’t what I did.
What I Did Instead
Caught up on email. Wrote. Reviewed some genealogy files that I brought with me. Wrote some more. Worked on an upcoming presentation. Wrote some more again.
Why I Didn’t Go
Frustration avoidance. The Family History Library can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a plan. (It can be overwhelming even with a plan!) Honestly, real life hadn’t afforded me the opportunity to sit down and make a research plan. I didn’t want to set myself up for frustration.
Quiet Time. Just because I didn’t go to the FHL doesn’t mean I didn’t do some genealogy. The time that I spent reviewing the files I brought with me was quite productive. I noticed some things in my ancestor’s probate file that I hadn’t caught before. I also made good progress on his timeline that I’ve been meaning to work on forever.
Didn’t Want to Add to the Piles. You know the piles I’m talking about. Those piles of photocopies that you bring home from any trip to the library. The piles that seem to grow exponentially. The piles that when you go through them later you’re on an archeological expedition. Those piles in my office are big enough already.
Why I Don’t Feel Guilty
My friend and colleague Mark Lowe has a wonderful theory about the need to “mull and ponder.” While we need to gather information, we also need to take the time to really go over what it says, to think about the implications, to consider what new paths of research it opens up for us.
I knew that if I went to the library for a few hours without a plan and without a clear goal in mind, I would simply be adding to the documents. It wouldn’t further my research and wouldn’t be a productive use of my time.
Instead of just adding to the documents, I spent some hours reviewing, analyzing, writing.
Yes, I had a free day in Utah and didn’t go to the Family History Library. And my research is actually better off because of it.
Have you ever felt guilty about not going to a genealogical hotspot?